Dementia and Diabetes Management: How to Care for a Loved One

When someone is diagnosed with diabetes, the next step is typically to support that person in learning diabetes self-management. Managing diabetes often requires an individual to take on several new rituals including glucose testing, dietary changes, an exercise regime, and medical exams.

But what happens someone has difficulty learning or maintaining these tasks? There are many reasons this might be the case, but one of the most common among aging Americans is dementia. Instances of both diabetes and dementia increase as people age, so it is no surprise that many families across the country are trying to support their loved ones’ diabetic needs while also dealing with changing cognitive abilities. Here are some tips for how to help care for an individual with both diabetes and dementia.

1) Learn the specifics of their diabetes and dementia.

Both diabetes and dementia can carry varying levels of intensity and care requirements. For example, some people with diabetes need to inject insulin regularly, while others can use pills. Similarly, there are different stages and types of dementia.

Knowing where your loved one fits in on these continuums will help you to understand what kind of support is needed. Ask permission to join your loved one in doctor’s appointments, to review their meeting notes, or to speak with a family doctor on their behalf. If your loved one has a later stage dementia, the individual with medical power of attorney should be able to access and share any necessary details.

2) Help them to keep appointments.

Preventative care is a must for managing diabetes. Mark down important dates and times and help them to arrange for transportation to each medical appointment. This includes visits to the family doctor as well as the optometrist, podiatrist, and any other relevant specialists. These medical professionals can help to keep the diabetes controlled as well as providing insight into how your loved one is progressing with their care.

3) Recognize potential barriers to a diabetes-friendly diet.

There are several aspects of dementia that could make diabetes self-management a challenge, particularly when it comes to proper nutrition. A recent publication for diabetes nurses clarified the most common.

“Barriers to healthy eating in people with diabetes and dementia include the following:

  • Memory problems: Forget to eat meals or forget that they have already eaten.
  • Agnosia: May not recognise food, cutlery, or even those caring for them.
  • Dysphasia: Unable to say they are hungry or feel “hypo” (have low blood glucose).
  • Dysphagia: Problems chewing and swallowing.
  • Dyspraxia: Can impair people’s ability to prepare food and to use utensils.
  • Executive Dysfunction: Impacts on the ability to plan the preparation of food and/or drinks.”

Depending on which combination of these challenges a loved on is experiencing, you may be able to apply different solutions. Typically, this will involve supervision of some kind related to meals. This can range from preparing meals ahead of time to physically feeding the individual, with the understanding that needs can change over time. Try to be solution-oriented if a loved one is struggling with any of the above issues, as nutrition should be a priority for anyone with diabetes.

4) Regularly examine their feet and provide them with therapeutic shoes.

People with diabetes are at high risk for amputation due to nerve damage in the feet. This means that even a small foot injury can become serious for your loved ones’ lower extremities.

Like most risks associated with diabetes, prevention is the best course of action when it comes to diabetic foot care. When you visit your loved one, take the time to check each foot swelling, bruising, redness, blisters, or other issues. Nerve damage can make it difficult or impossible for people to identify these injuries themselves, and dementia may make it even more difficult for them to communicate discomfort.

Additionally, be sure to provide your loved one with the proper shoes for their daily activities. Therapeutic shoes and inserts are covered by Medicare for many people with diabetes, so all you need to do after speaking with a doctor is to order this preventative tool from

5) Support a consistent routine.

According to a 2016 academic article published by the American Diabetes Association, “the use of environmental supports (e.g., a consistent daily routine, visual cues, and caregiver prompts) may help maintain functioning and keep older adults in their homes and managing their diabetes longer.”

For those in earlier (stage 1 and 2) dementia, this can also include the keeping of memory journals and alarms for prompting. However, even those further along in their dementia will often remember daily tasks if they are repeated on a daily basis in an orderly fashion.

Even if this does not help them to remember per se, it may make them more trusting and calm when it comes to less comfortable parts of diabetes management, such as glucose testing. Consider the need for relative consistency when making appointments and coordinating visits to ensure they stay on track with their daily program.

Managing diabetes and dementia: A group effort

Multiple support systems should come together help people to live the healthiest possible lives. This includes family & friends, case managers, nursing home staff and/or home care workers, and various medical professionals.

Most professionals who deal with aging patients are familiar with the intersection of these two conditions. Working with individuals, clinics, and suppliers who understand these unique circumstances can help those dealing with both diabetes and dementia access the support they need.

At, we hear from caregivers often and often support them in getting Medicare coverage and  diabetic shoe fittings for their loved ones. For more information, please visit or call us at 1-866-923-2423.

Helpful Tips for Supporting Your Diabetic Spouse

Diabetes is a challenging diagnosis that millions of families across the United States face each year.

Why do we say “families” instead of “individuals”? Because the emotional toll, necessary lifestyle changes and possible side-effects of diabetes almost always influences lives outside of the person who gets the diagnosis. Additionally, loved ones play a critical role in helping people with diabetes live a full and happy life.

Children, parents, siblings, and friends can all be an important part of a diabetes treatment plan. However, those who live and share their lives with a diabetic loved one – spouses, life partners, or significant others – often have the biggest impact on a diabetic partner’s health. Here are some tips for those who are supporting a diabetic spouse or partner.

1) Plan for date nights that don’t involve unhealthy food, sugary treats or questionable menus.

happy senior couple walking at summer park diabetic spouse date ideas

For many couples, “quality time” and social activities often come with a menu – and usually not a very diabetes-friendly one! When date night rolls around, people with diabetes can feel torn between the wants of their partner and the need to follow a diabetes-friendly diet.

A spouse or significant other can alleviate this stress by not putting their partner in a position where they have to choose between their health and fun dates. Instead, come up with shared activities that support the diabetic treatment plan.  This can include active pastimes like bowling, golf, walks in the park, going to the theatre (skip the candy this time!), dancing, card games, or sharing a healthy meal at home.

While it may be a change of pace for some couples, finding a couple shared activities that don’t lead to dietary difficulties is a good place to start when building a diabetes-friendly lifestyle.

2) Empower a diabetic loved one to take control of management tasks like blood sugar testing, regular appointments and, insulin taking.

One mistake spouses can make is becoming too integrated into their partners’ treatment plans. While sometimes a third party does need to be responsible for things like testing blood sugar (for example, if a diabetic person has severe dementia), those who can manage their own health should be empowered to do so.

That said, there is no harm in spouses keeping an eye out to make sure their partner is regularly checking their blood sugar and following doctor’s orders. After all, two heads are better than one! However, the goal should be to help the diabetic partner to manage things independently. For example, a spouse can ask if their partner checked his or her blood sugar, or remind them of appointments if it comes to mind – but they should also help put reminder systems in place like phone alarms and calendars to make sure their spouse has a handle on these daily tasks in the future.

If a partner or any loved one notices consistent mismanagement of diabetes, the best course of action is to raise the issue with a person’s family doctor. Often, diabetes management training or tools like a continuous glucose monitor can help in these cases.

3) Support a diabetic spouse by joining in their lifestyle changes.

diabetes supporting spouse by making dinner together

One of the best things about a diabetic meal plan is that it can be a healthy change for anyone, even if they are not personally diabetic. While people without diabetes don’t need to be as strict about their eating habits, there’s no harm in eating better and moving more! People with diabetes will find the lifestyle changes a lot easier with their partner right by their side. Plus, it makes meal planning way easier when both people are eating the same thing.

4) Get educated!

The more a family knows about diabetes, the easier it is to care for a loved one with the diagnosis. Here are a few easy ways to get started:

  • Learn about diabetes management, including glucose testing, dietary restrictions, and exercise. This will help you plan for daily life and even special trips that are safe and healthy for a diabetic spouse.
  • Discuss issues related to feet and eye care with your doctors and specialists. Blindness and lost limbs are common side effects of diabetes, but they can often be prevented through the simple use of special care, regular appointments and diabetic shoes – all of which are covered by Medicare.
  • Speaking of Medicare, it’s a good idea to learn all about what’s covered by family and government plans! We made a list of everything Medicare covers for Americans with diabetes, which you can check out here.

For recipes, guides, worksheets, and more, you can also check out our list of “Top Resources for Americans with Diabetes.”

Getting therapeutic shoes and other resources for a spouse with diabetes

At No Cost Shoes, many of the calls we get are from children and spouses seeking Medicare-covered shoes for their loved ones. Many can’t believe that Medicare covers shoes for Americans with foot issues and diabetes, but the realization can be a game-changer for families.

To find out if you or your spouse qualify for shoes at no cost, fill out our online application or call us at 1-866-923-2423.

We are a Medicare-accredited supplier who helps thousands of families across the U.S. access the support they need to live a full and happy life together with therapeutic shoes, continuous glucose monitors, and other support aids.